Safety Tips for Visiting the Dog Park

Dogs and their owners often love the dog park! However, sometimes one poor experience at the dog park can make a dog fearful or aggressive during future visits. The following are some tips to help keep the dog park a safe and positive place for you and your dog. Feel free to share your own safety tips in the comments.

Dog Park Safety Tips

1. Exercise your dog beforehand.

Yes, the dog park is a great place for exercising your dog, but lots of excited energy can sometimes lead to fights. So, even if your dog is usually friendly, it's always a good idea to walk her for a good half-hour right before visiting the park. It's also a good idea to practice good leash manners while walking to the gate, and to ask your dog to sit before opening the gate.

2. Socialize your dog in smaller groups.

Busy dog parks can be filled with 50 or 100 dogs! This could be a bit much for your dog, even if she isn't shy. Help her out by setting up doggy play dates with just two or three dogs a couple times. If all goes well, visit the dog park during a quieter time such as a Monday afternoon vs. a Saturday afternoon. After your dog has had several positive experiences socializing with groups of dogs, she might be ready for the larger-group experience.

3. Practice calling your dog.

Is your dog going to come to you when it's time to leave the park? Or, are you going to be the owner who has to chase her dog in order to get the leash on her?

If you know your dog won't come when called at the dog park, I actually recommend you do not call her. Instead, just go and get her. Only call your dog when you are 99 percent sure she will listen. Here are some tips on how to get your dog to come when called. One great product to use for training the recall (when not at the dog park) is a 50-foot leash.

4. Pay attention to your dog.

Some of my friends will take their dogs to the dog park and then totally ignore their dogs! Most of us do not have dogs that are well behaved 100 percent of the time, right? And even if they are close to perfect, it's still important to watch them in case another dog is being a bully. Plus, you just never know what can happen. Sometimes a dog's collar can get caught on another dog's collar. For safety reasons, you may want to use a quick-release buckle dog collar at the dog park.

5. Know the park's rules.

Most dog parks require dogs to wear dog ID tags. Some parks will also have posted rules that say the dogs must be licensed, spayed/neutered and up to date on certain vaccinations. While these rules can be a little overboard (most dogs are not licensed, for example), it's still good to be aware of them and to understand why they exist. For example, your dog has a higher risk of catching "kennel cough" by visiting the dog park compared to most other parks, especially if she hasn't received a bordetella vaccine in the last six months.

What do you do to keep your dog safe at the dog park?